When I discovered the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics website sound archive, I went straight for the loon sounds. No browsing required. Maybe it’s just me, but it seemed so obvious that that’s the animal I would want to accompany in music. They are so musical and have an incredible range of sounds. The wide open Great Lakes landscape that they occupy is the same space I go to with some of my original music.

I cued up a couple of great field recordings from the library, relaxed into the tempo of the animals and ran through some riffs. I wanted to improv with them and not overthink it too much. Just a couple of takes and I felt that we had synced in that space. Looking at their sound with a spectrum analyzer is interesting. When their call reaches its climax, there is a huge spike at 2k Hz, which is in the flute-like highest range of human vocal sounds.
Gavia is the scientific classification genus name of loons. I was really glad to discover that there is such a beautiful sounding alternative word for “loon”. I mean, anything with “loon” in the title is just going to sound silly.

Credits: The field recordings are from OSU Museum of Biological Diversity Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics: Catalog numbers BLB18472 and BLB18485. The black and white landscape drawing was commissioned from Columbus illustrator Nate Burns (


When I started making recordings for this project, the sound I envisioned was “a young David Gilmour (guitarist of Pink Floyd) produced by Burial (lo-fi electronic music producer from the UK).” I love that entrancing, new agey, electric guitar sound, and I wanted to bring it into a dark, mysterious space.

Recording yourself with cheap gear affords the time and attention to really bring an environment into focus, even if it is littered with hiss and the unconvincing tones of free plug-ins. There’s an otherworldly character to be achieved when you remove the real studio and an engineer’s voice of reason from the equation. For me, melody is the guiding light. I really like putting a beautiful melody in a kind of trashy environment. If the melody is there, the sound quality might as well be made more interesting in its flaws.

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